A New, Peculiar State: Explorations in Soviet History, 1917-1937

A New, Peculiar State: Explorations in Soviet History, 1917-1937

A New, Peculiar State: Explorations in Soviet History, 1917-1937

A New, Peculiar State: Explorations in Soviet History, 1917-1937

Synopsis

Using a variety of old and new archival sources to examine the emergence of the Soviet system (1917-1937), this combined approach offers a chronologically coherent and original construction of some crucial stages and problems in Soviet history. The past two centuries have produced an extraordinary number of new states--more than 30 in 20th-century Europe alone. It is within this turbulent context that one must analyze the rise of the Soviet state, an entity that would prove fragile in the long run despite its all-powerful facade. An examination of the extreme features and peculiarities of the Soviet variant offers revealing insights into this exceptional historical process and contributes to a wider understanding of the European "Forty Year" War (1912-1953).

Excerpt

I had the good fortune to meet many extraordinary teachers. Vittorio Foa and David Montgomery introduced me to labor problems and labor history. Augusto Graziani and Vincenzo Giura taught me what I know of economics and economic history. Lisa Foa, Michael Confino, Riccardo Picchio, and, above all, Moshe Lewin shared with me their incomparable, because based on remarkable personal experiences, knowledge of Russian and Soviet history. Last but not least, my Ukrainian friends imparted me a lesson in the importance of their country's history, a lesson archives have repeatedly endorsed.

To these teachers this book is dedicated. Though it is composed of already-published essays, I hope it to be something more than a simple collection. The reader will, of course, have the final word, but it seems to me that the outline of a chronologically coherent reconstruction of some crucial stages and problems in Soviet history does emerge.

At least in my eyes, at the roots of this coherence are the years spent trying to understand one and the same problem: the striking ascent and, later on, the as striking demise of a new and rather peculiar historical creature, the USSR. With time I have learned to look at the emergence of this seemingly all-powerful, yet in the long run fragile new state in the framework of a more general and more impressive histori-

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